I was taking a break from having painted nails this week because the underneath was looking a bit rubbish. Despite using a non-acetone based polish remover (as a chemist I strongly recommend not using acetone – it basically dissolves everything*), over time I still get a bit of wear and tear.
I’ve been wearing nail polish pretty much constantly since my former (x3) line manager suggested that, if I wanted to, I should keep doing it. This was about 2 years ago.
So I took a break this week. I didn’t even really take a proper break – I just used clear polish. Then several people I worked with spotted I wasn’t sporting a colour.
“I just fancied a break,” I explained.
“Oh, I just… needed to give my nails a rest, they were getting a bit ugly underneath.”
“Oh. I don’t know anything about these things. It’s more my wife’s domain.”
“Sure. I mean, I’m still wearing clear, it’s sort of shiny, though I guess I was hoping for it to just look like nails this week.
“I dunno… sometimes it’s nice not to wear any.”
“What? But nails are your thing.”
“Oh, well, fair enough. I guess so. I’m here wearing my crazy jacket and my belt on the outside of my asymmetrical top like something out of blade runner, so… I have my weird style.”
Then he said something I wasn’t expecting:
“It’s not weird, it’s your style.”
I didn’t realise until that moment how much respect being myself from Day 1 had earned me. I didn’t realise that my style had become locally iconic with my team – despite getting the occasional compliment, most people don’t really say anything.
And most importantly, preceding all of those thoughts, I didn’t realise that I’d so strongly built a sense of identity that was now bigger than I was – that people knew what to expect from me. The reaction to the undermining of myself was one of shock and horror – surely I was happy, bringing myself to work? What would I want a break from myself for?
It’s interesting, actually. While I’ve never received any criticism for who I am, I know many people who have done and still do. I’m lucky to surround myself with strong characters of my own who I can look up to and emulate their ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude. It’s from other people that I get my confidence to wear the crazy jackets and asymmetric neckline and dangle earrings and arty nails.
I guess there’s also the worry that, to a certain extent, it’s also in the hands of others to take that confidence away again. I’m thinking of Eric, the gay character from ‘Sex Education’, who one day, beaten down, shows up to school in drab colours (and gets even more criticism as a result). At times of high stress, I sometimes haven’t wanted the added visual stigma of being a guy in nail polish. Like I say, I’ve never had any trouble. But I could.
I just had my invitation through for my stag do. I had no idea what was going on until this evening, when my best friends emailed me with a French flag and note of what to bring. The list includes a terrible French accent and beret – and a note to be a “busty and vivacious” character for a murder mystery.
I think I wrote once before about my fears of getting into drag when I was an actor. I had to go buy a black strappy dress from a charity shop (my fellow actors came with me for support). I dreaded putting it on and felt huge relief in taking it off – because I was scared of labels and confirming people’s expectations of what ‘gay’ was, as the only gay on a musical theatre course (yeah, I know, wtf right?).
But no one else understood that fear. When I admitted it to people, they were surprised I had such trouble with it (actors play drag all the time no matter the sexuality) and perhaps more than a little disappointed that I felt there wasn’t enough of me to shine through an item of clothing.
My sense of self has come a long way since then, and I’m kinda looking forward to a bit of stag silliness. That week is also my first ever improv show. #bringittotherunway
*like salt dissolves in water, not like furniture “dissolves” in acid. Wood doesn’t dissolve in acid guys, it fucking reacts with it. That said, acetone’s not Mr. Stable Chemical, although it does alright.